On February 7, 2016 an average audience of 111.9 million people were watching Super Bowl 50, second highest ever. On the advertising side, it was the most expensive Super Bowl to date - a 30-second ad spot reportedly cost $5 million.
For online merchants, your Super Bowl comes every November with the long weekend of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
Are you ready?
On Black Friday alone, online sales have more than double from $1.39 billion to $2.74 billion in just four years from 2012 - 2015.
Looking at the long weekend as a whole, it was the single most successful weekend ever for ecommerce when it brought in $11 billion according to Adobe Digital Index. This upwards trend has been going on for years, and there’s no indication that this year will be any different:
Image via CMO by Adobe
While ecommerce sales growing year by year should not be surprising What is somewhat surprising is the growth of mobile sales; they have more than doubled in the last three years.
Mobile commerce has gone from just an afterthought or a sales channel that could be “good enough”, to something that is crucial for a merchant’s success.
Data from IBM Marketing Cloud shows that on Black Friday traffic from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) accounted for nearly 60% of all traffic and 36.2% of total online sales in 2015:
Image via IBM
Since this period of hyper-sales is fast approaching, it’s time to get your site and team ready to handle high volume shopping days.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at three pillars of success:
- Customer loyalty
With each paragraph filled with charts, graphs and links to articles and tips to get you ready for the biggest sales day(s) of your company.
Bookmark this page and come back to it as you prepare for the biggest shopping days of the year.
Proven Marketing Strategies
Email ruled as a leading marketing channel on Black Friday 2015 with 25.1% of all online sales being attributed to email marketing followed by organic search, paid search and social according to data from Custora:
Image via Bee
One interesting change that happened during Black Friday 2015 was mobile email clickthroughs; they grew by 22.8% compared to 2014 while mobile open rates were up by only 2.7% compared to previous year.
On the online ads side, data from SocialCode shows that cost-per-mille (CPM) on Facebook ads peaked around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Compared to yearly average, you’re looking at paying up to 2.58 times more:
Image via Jon Loomer
And it’s not just Black Friday and Cyber Monday either; ad prices are climbing throughout the month of November:
Image via Salesforce
Still, even with those inflated prices return on ad spend (as measured by purchase revenues attributed within 24 hours of ad placement) was higher last Black Friday than had been the average return over the preceding four Fridays according to data from Nanigans:
Image via Nanigans
Speaking of social, don’t forget about selling natively on those platforms. Sure, that functionality is new to both merchants and users but brands, like MVMT Watches, that are using it are seeing conversion rates of .5%.
It’s low, but it’s better than zero and definitely worth experimenting with. Currently, native buying experiences are available (and supported by Shopify Plus) on Facebook and Pinterest.
Here are some additional resources:
- Happy Holidays: The Season of Failing with Facebook Ads - Too many companies are willing to pay enormous premiums on advertising during high sales season believing that simply putting more and more into it will somehow bring better results. It doesn’t. This article looks at what your ads strategy should be throughout the year to really be successful during the high-sales season.
- 3 Ways to Get the Most out of Black Friday Facebook Ads for Your Ecommerce Business
- What Everyone Gets Wrong About Facebook Ads - This piece focuses on the most common mistakes marketers make with Facebook advertising. It’s a good overview on what to not to do.
- How We Got a 400% ROI on Facebook Ads on Black Friday & Cyber Monday [CASE STUDY]
- How Shop Direct Got 20X ROI Off One Facebook Campaign [CASE STUDY]
- The Complete, Always-Updated Guide to Facebook Advertising - A good primer on everything Facebook advertising. Even if you’re confident in your skills, it nevers hurts to go over the basics every once in awhile.
- How to Execute an Effective Ad Retargeting Campaign That Works - Learn how to retarget the right way.
- Cramming for the Back to School Shopping Season? Here’s a Cheat Sheet to Ace the Online Rush - BFCM has nothing to with back to school but the principles of dealing with high-sales periods are still the same, hence the inclusion.
- The Ultimate Guide To Google AdWords Campaign Management - Everything Google Adwords.
- Can You Do Ecommerce Without an Open Web? - This one looks at all the different ways that social platforms can be used to drive more online sales.
- How MVMT Watches Uses Social Selling to Shorten the Path to Purchase & Easily Earn New Customers [CASE STUDY]
Building Post-Holiday Customer Loyalty
Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales attract many new visitors. As a result your percentage of first-time customers will be greatly increased. The trouble with first-time customers is that most of them will never buy from you again.
Data from RJMetrics shows that only 32% of shoppers will order again during the first calendar year:
The good news is that after you manage to get a repeat purchase, things start to look a whole lot better. After a customer has made a second purchase, the likelihood of a third purchase jumps past 50% and it keeps increasing as more and more purchases are made:
Now, the question is how to get first-time customers to buy from you again. Obviously, email marketing plays a huge role, along with proper list segmentation to make sure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time. There’s no point in getting your new holiday customers into your regular email list and bombard them with endless information.
Apart from emails, a hugely important but often neglected part of gaining loyal customers is the packaging in which your merchandise arrives. It’s such a small thing but can make a huge difference.
Below you’ll find articles and guides on all of the above and much more to get you started on the right foot.
- How to Scale Brand Loyalty with an Influx of New Customers
- How to Build Habit Forming Products w/ Nir Eyal [VIDEO] - Nir Eyal is a Stanford Business School lecturer, startup mentor, and author of “Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products.” He studies how businesses design habit forming products that create “unprompted user engagement.”
- How to Turn Those Seasonal One-Time Shoppers into Lifelong Customers - Black Friday & Cyber Monday bring a lot of new shoppers who have never bought from you again. This piece looks at tactics that help you retain them.
- How to Retain More of Your Holiday Customers
- How To Create a Memorable and Shareable Unboxing Experience for Your Brand - The unboxing experience is the first time that your customers interact with your product(s). Make it memorable and you got a fan for life, mess it up and you’re lost a customer. This one looks in great detail at how you can craft a great unboxing experience for your customers.
- Designing The New Customer Experience: What Happens After Checkout? - This one looks at ways you can increase customer loyalty from customized emails to a memorable unboxing experience.
- Four All-Too-Common Enterprise Email Marketing Mistakes
- Email List Segmentation Strategies For High-Volume Ecommerce Stores - Segmented email campaigns get 53% better click-through rates than unsegmented ones. Enough said.
- Teach Your Email to Behave: Transactional Targeting After the Sale - This one looks at four triggers (customer actions) that can be used to send personalized emails to encourage future purchases.
Logistics and merchandise planning are the backbone of every successful ecommerce merchant. During the high-sales season, those things become even more important as customers want to receive their merchandise fast. They don’t care that you’ve run out of stock or that your logistics provider can’t handle increased orders.
That’s why it’s important to communicate upfront about limited supplies or possible shipping delays. When you let customers know right on your product pages that this product is in short supply and may run out soon, they can adjust their expectations and not be as angry or surprised when their order arrives late.
Another crucial part of a solid logistics strategy is managing returns. While they are not ideal, they will happen, and as you get more customers during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your returns are likely to spike as well.
Knowing this beforehand can help you plan how to deal with them, as well as make sure that your return policy is easy to understand for both your customers and your own employees to avoid problems.
Being prepared is the name of the game in logistics. You know that you’ll get more orders than usually and by using industry as well as your own historical data, you can accurately forecast which products are likely to be “hot” and which ones are not.
The same goes for organizing your supply chain and shipping. You have the data; it’s just about using it in a smart way.
Here are some helpful resources:
- How to Reduce Your Return Rate & Predict Exactly What Customers Want - An in-depth look at returns, how to minimize them, and make the most of returned merchendice.
- Don’t Drive Customers Away: Logistics Planning to Meet Increased Demand - An article on preparing for and dealing with increased demand and the strain it puts on fulfillment.
- How to Maintain Maximum Profitability During the High-Return Season - No matter how well you prepare, returns will happen. This excellent article looks at how you can prepare for and profit from them.
- How to Manage Rush, Maintain Stock and Sell More This Holiday
- 10 Ways For Retailers to Reduce Online Returns Rates - Here’s an article on how you can reduce returns by using clever design within your product pages.
- One Size Doesn’t Fit All! How To Reduce Apparel Returns - Article on reducing returns in the apparel industry. If you’re in it, it’s a must read!
- Prevent "Out of Stock": How to Create a Merchandise Plan That Rocks - This one looks at preventing out of stock by using better planning and smarter software.
- Supply Chain Optimization: How to Develop a World-Class Logistics Network - supply chain is no longer something to save money on, in the past decade or so it has become the main vehicle that drives profits. This article looks at how to optimize and overhaul your entire supply chain, and not just parts of it.
- Designing Your Fulfillment Strategy: 3PL, FBA, In-Store Pickup & More - Everything fulfillment. You need to read this.
Additional Tips and Tricks for Success
Besides marketing, customer loyalty and logistics, there are a number of things to keep an eye on to prepare for the coming Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness. What follows is a list of general tips and tricks to get through the high volume shopping season without yelling “Bah Humbug!” when it’s all over.